AMC's monstrous hit The Walking Dead returns for its sixth season this Sunday with a 90-minute premiere, and you're forgiven if you've forgotten what happened on the last — and from our vantage point — most tightly paced season of the show yet. We get it! Your brain is full of paranoid hackers and Everlasting and ninja warriors, so you might have difficulty remembering the events after Rick Grimes and Company left the hospital. Last we left our hardy crew, they had settled down in Alexandria, helmed by a fortunate if not naïve group of survivors led by Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh). As you might expect, the transition wasn't exactly smooth.
So how's the Ricktatorship doing?
The prevailing question during the second leg of the fifth season was whether or not Rick Grimes and Company could adjust to the idyllic living situation that Deanna and the rest of the townspeople of Alexandria had established. (The answer is no.) It wasn't long before Rick Grimes would point out that the Alexandrians had it wrong, and the finale reestablished that the Ricktatorship would not simply continue but that it would thrive. The final scene brought the townspeople of Alexandria together for a town hall after Rick and Pete (the alcoholic abusive husband of Rick's love interest, Jessie) threw down on the street. In the episode prior, Rick pulled out his gun and waved it around at everyone, which, of course, goes against their rule of not waving guns around at people (or having guns, for that matter). Pete returns to the town meeting, drunk and sniveling, saying Rick isn't one of them. He's armed with Michonne's samurai sword, only to end up slashing the throat of Reg, Alexandria's architect and Deanna's husband. At that moment, Deanna hands over her power, as she tells Rick, "Do it." Rick executes Pete in front of the rest of the town. Point count: Ricktatorship, 144; Alexandria, 0.
Who else died?
As you might expect, the bodies piled up. Other than the deaths of Reg and Pete, the most tragic — and horrifying — loss was Noah (Tyler James Williams), who survived the fascistic hospital at Grady Memorial only to join the gang and get slaughtered by a horde of zombies while stuck in a revolving door. The other major death was Deanna's son, Aiden, a Nine Inch Nails fan who's killed in the same attack after mucking up a routine mission by accidentally shooting a grenade. At least he was blessed with this cool death scene?
Ricktatorship, 0; Alexandria, 1. (For a cool death scene.)
Yeesh. What a downer. Was there any good news?
Yes! Tara woke up from her coma at the end of the season. But perhaps more exciting was the return of Morgan (Lennie James), who first appeared in the pilot episode, only to disappear and then briefly reappear as a raving, grief-stricken loner in season three. He's got his head in the game now, as well as a walking stick, thus epitomizing the saying, speak softly and carry a deadly stick.
Was Rick the baddest badass of them all last season?
Rick is the most obvious flag-bearer of badassery on the show. At the town meeting, he hauled in a zombie corpse (one of which he killed by squeezing its head until it exploded) to show them just how precarious their lives were. As he drops the carcass in front of the Alexandrians, he tells them, "I was thinking, How many of you do I have to kill to save your lives?"
But while Rick is the obvious answer here, we submit Carol as the true badass of the show. Not only did she single-handedly save everyone from the cannibals at Terminus at the start of the fifth season, she has since adopted a more terrifying mask — that of the weak, helpless victim — almost as an ironic reminder of who she was in season one. Now at Alexandria, she plays a maternal role, while manipulating and threatening people — and children! — behind the scenes. I mean, remember this?
Ricktatorship, 637; Alexandria: 0.
Who was the worst?
The Walking Dead has a way of absorbing you into its Hobbesian, survivalist logic: Well, the weak should die. There are people who either step up, or those who get themselves (and others) killed by their sheer incompetence or cravenness. There's Father Gabriel, who, despite getting saved a number of times, actually tells Deanna that Rick and his team "can't be trusted." He fails to close the gate after Deanna's son No. 2 asks him to, thereby letting zombies into the town. And while Father Gabriel is pretty useless, Alexandria resident Nicholas (Michael Traynor) is probably the worst. Not only did he leave his friend Aiden behind and get Noah killed in the process, he lied and blamed the entire thing on Glenn and the rest of the team. Even more galling? He lured Glenn out into the woods and tried to kill him, only to fail because he's a terrible shot and Glenn is a badass. Ricktatorship, 354; Alexandria, -43.
Why didn't Glenn kill him?
Glenn ultimately believes in the need for a stable place, as do Michonne and Daryl. They're hardened survivors, but they also sense the erosion of their humanity, and the need to get it back. (Sasha, meanwhile, has been having a meltdown since the deaths of her lover Bob Stookey and her brother Tyreese. She's been going on killing sprees with her sniper rifle.) "We are them now," Glenn tells Rick. "We've got to make this work."
Is anyone having sexytime?
Well, Carl is making slightly creepy puppy-dog eyes at Enid, who's supposedly going steady with Ron. (Hormones, man.) More important, part of what precipitated the finale was the fact that Rick was forming feelings for Jessie. So that's probably still a thing. Sorry, Richonne shippers.
Are there any other threats?
The wolf pack still looms. They're the weird cult group with W's carved into their forehead who go around terrorizing people. Their motives seem slightly nonsensical, and their methods are implausible: They rigged a trap of meatpacking trucks filled with zombies that would automatically flash lights and play music very loudly. Daryl and his scouting partner Aaron (who had initially scouted Rick and the gang and integrated them into Alexandria) got stuck in the trap, but they were able to get out alive with the help of Morgan, whom they discover knows Rick from way back when. They bring him to Alexandria with them, arriving just after Rick's executed Pete. Welcome to the Ricktatorship, Morgan!
What's the final score in this silly little count you've been keeping?
Ricktatorship, 1,135; Alexandria, -42. Long live the Ricktatorship!